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Digital switch still coming

A “soft test” by Birmingham area television stations could leave some televisions in the Chilton County area dark Thursday.

The Federal Communications Commission, as part of the conversion to digital television from analog television, has ordered television broadcasters nationwide to conduct a “soft test” at three different times on May 21.

During this test, analog programming will be interrupted with a special message telling viewers that if they are seeing the message, it means they are not prepared to receive a digital signal and will lose reception on June 12 when the switch to digital broadcasting is set to begin.

“The switch to DTV (digital television) offers benefits to consumers and society, but we must be vigilant to make sure all Americans are prepared for the transition,” active FCC chairman Michael Copps said. “Television is a primary source for news, weather and public safety information for many Americans, so the FCC is working overtime to reach those remaining viewers who still have not taken the necessary action to continue to receive television programming after June 12.”

On June 12, all full-power television stations in the United States will cease analog transmission and broadcast only in digital. Consumers who use an antenna to get free, over-the-air programming could lose their television signals on June 12 if they haven’t taken steps to get their televisions DTV ready.

In conjunction with the “soft test,” the FCC will launch a communications campaign including public service announcements and education literature about the switch.

Those who do not have cable-ready televisions must purchase a converter box in order to continue receiving a signal after the switch.

Coupons worth $40 toward the purchase of a converter box can be obtained from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration by visiting www.dtv2009.com or by calling 1-888-DTV-2009. Each household is entitled to coupons for up to two boxes. Consumers can continue to order converter box coupons through July 31.